Mar 02

Volunteering on an AT Work Crew

Fridays are for fun, right?  I have decided to reserve Fridays for posts about things I consider fun.  I thought I would start this series with one of my favorite hobbies, hiking.

Bustin' Rock into gravel sized pieces

The Appalachian Trail has been a crush of mine for many years.  It started as a blazing obsession with dreams of one day hiking the entire trail, every one of the 2,180 miles stretching from Georgia to Maine.  Not having the time, an average of 6 months, to devote to this dream, I have had to find other ways to satisfy this hunger. My favorite is volunteering to help maintain the trail. Volunteering on an AT Work Crew is absolutely my favorite way to spend 8 days!

I was looking through a volunteer vacation book and was intrigued when I ran across this opportunity.  I mean come on, the following description would have any girl excited, right?


Trail work is hard, physical labor. It involves working with hand tools, and getting dirty is guaranteed. The crews work eight- or nine-hour days, rain or shine, hot or cold, regardless of black flies, mosquitoes, and other insects. During the course of the crew season, the weather can vary from sweaty, summertime heat to freezing, winter-like cold.

Another place I love to spend time is Gatlinburg, TN and the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.  So imagine my delight when I researched further and discovered the Rocky Top Trail Crew.  My interest grew upon discovering this particular crew operates for two months, September and October. October is my favorite time to spend in the smokies.

Rocky Top Trail Crew
The Rocky Top crew works exclusively on 70 miles of the A.T. through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park following the ridge crest from Davenport Gap to Fontana Dam. The crew is sponsored jointly by the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club, the National Park Service, and ATC.
Because its work sites are so remote, the Rocky Top Crew has an eight-days-on, three-days-off schedule. Please note that the Rocky Top Crew involves a long backpack in to the work site, and eight days of backcountry camping.

Did you catch that last part?  …involves a long backpack in to the work site and eight days of backcountry camping!  I know right, I could barely contain my excitement.

My first (yes, that means I have done this more than once) experience working on a trail crew was amazing.  Keep in mind this trip is not for the weak-hearted. Seven nights with no electricity or plumbing.  Also, the trail crews practice the “Leave No Trace” philosophy so that means no fires which translates to no heat.

I won’t go on, because I could forever!, but I will leave you with a few pictures.

Various Trips including Rocky Top & Konnarock Crews

Ready to Hit the Trail

Did I mention it was cold - and no heat!

Hard at it!

Side-hilling to improve drainage

Relaxing after a hard days work

Did I mention Back Breaking?

Bustin' Rock into gravel sized pieces

Placing a Rock Step

Each time I volunteered was truly amazing.  I highly recommend a volunteer vacation, it is very rewarding.  And I saved the best part for last…no cell phone reception!  8 days disconnected from technology helps you reconnect with your soul.




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